61. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Abbott, Texas. Willie comes from a musical family; his grandfather bought him his first guitar at age six, and taught him a few chords. Willie started writing songs and performing publicly at a very young age. He was athletically inclined; he played baseball, basketball and football for his high school team. After high school, he enrolled in the Air Force, and studied agriculture at Baylor University for a couple years. He held down a wide variety of jobs, while also maintaining contact with performing and writing. In the fifties, he pursued music in earnest, moving west to Vancouver, Washington, and back to Houston, Texas in 1958, before moving to Nashville, Tennessee.


Willie Nelson (b. 1933), singer/songwriter, guitar


Notable Collaborators:

Bobbie Nelson (b. 1931), piano, vocals
Jody Payne (1936-2013), guitar, vocals
Paul English, drums
Mickey Raphael (b. 1951), harmonica

Kris Kristofferson (b. 1936), guitar. singer/songwriter
Waylon Jennings (1937-2002), guitar, singer/songwriter

Willie first achieved national recognition as a songwriter. In Nashville, he was hired by Pamper Music, a publishing firm co-owned by country singer Ray Price. Price recorded Willie’s “Night Life”, and then Nelson had big hits Patsy Cline (“Crazy”) and Faron Young (“Hello Walls”). Willie also signed a contract with Liberty Records and recorded his own songs. Here’s Willie as a younger man performing a medley of his hit songs:

The Countrypolitan Becomes The Outlaw

Willie eventually broke from the lush orchestration of Nashville’s mainstream country music, and was influential in country music’s evolution. By mid-life Willie had developed perhaps the warmest voice in popular music. He moved back to Texas, and adopted a grittier, less refined sound. In addition, he has become a formidable and somewhat unique guitarist, perhaps the only modern pop guitarist to use a Martin classical guitar.

The best of these three is a performance of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” from an Austin City Limits broadcast. His sense of timing and choice of notes in the guitar solo is exquisite. This music seems a stone’s throw from jazz.

Finally, Willie plays “Funny How Time Slips Away”, in front of a few of his peers. It’s a bit awkward; the other artists can only sit there with the camera focused on their expressions.

Random Notes:

My mother liked Willie Nelson, especially the song “On The Road Again”. I think it reminded her of the many road trip we took when I was a schoolboy. I once saw Willie, with my college sweetheart, at the Santa Cruz County Fair in Watsonville. That msut have been around 1980. He was never a favorite artist of mine, but one I grew to appreciate over time. Willie is such a cool cat.

Willie Nelson Songs:

Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭✭
Night Life, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭✭

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭
Moonlight In Vermont, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭
On The Road Again, Willie Nelson ✭✭✭

Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Stardust, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Help Me Make It Through The Night, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Stay A Little Longer (Live), Willie Nelson ✭✭
Pancho & Lefty, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, Willie Nelson ✭✭
That’s The Way Love Goes, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Crazy, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Funny How Time Slips Away, Willie Nelson ✭✭
Hello Walls, Willie Nelson ✭✭

Georgia On My Mind, Willie Nelson
Whiskey River (Live), Willie Nelson
Good Hearted Woman (Live), Willie Nelson
Healing Hands Of Time, Willie Nelson
Blue Skies, Willie Nelson
Always On My Mind, Willie Nelson
Are You Sure, Willie Nelson
All Of Me, Willie Nelson
Big Booty, Willie Nelson
Time Of The Preacher, Willie Nelson
Loving Her Was Easier (Thank Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), Willie Nelson

Related Songs:

Luckenbach, Texas, Waylon Jennings (with Willie Nelson) ✭✭✭

Hello Walls, Faron Young ✭✭✭

All Of Me, Benny Carter ✭✭
All Of Me, Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra ✭✭

Crazy, Patsy Cline ✭✭✭

Moonlight In Vermont, Marian McPartland ✭✭
Moonlight In Vermont, Frank Sinatra ✭✭
Moonlight In Vermont, Nat King Cole Trio ✭✭✭
Moonlight In Vermont, Stan Getz ✭✭

Stay A Little Longer, Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys ✭✭

Georgia On My Mind, Hoagy Carmichael ✭✭✭
Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles ✭✭✭

Help Me Make It Through The Night, Sammi Smith ✭✭

Stardust, Jack Jenney ✭✭✭
Stardust, Artie Shaw ✭✭✭
Stardust, Louis Armstrong ✭✭
Stardust, Clark Terry

Night Life, Ray Price ✭✭✭

Blue Skies, Benny Goodman & His Orchestra

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